BLACK STAR RIDERS – Another State Of Grace (2019)
“Another State Of Grace” is the fourth studio album by American rockers BLACK STAR RIDERS. I expect that any band who has put out three quite exceptional slabs of hard rock is always under pressure to come up with the goods and edge that last release to keep the fire burning and the fan base growing, but this fourth outing has another feel altogether – it’s an album that at once seems effortless, comfortable and one which is destined to become a classic.
It can’t be easy being Black Star Riders. On the one hand, most sane people were delighted when an acceptable incarnation of THIN LIZZY mutated into its own entity and started to make records that complemented, rather than added to, the legacy of guitarist Scott Gorham’s legendary former band.
On the other, the task of persuading people that the band can stand apart from the Lizzy catalogue and still rally the troops was never going to be an easy one.
That this multinational crew have reached their fourth album with credibility and momentum intact speaks volumes about the spirit behind the whole thing. The joy of this ongoing collaboration has long been how natural, unpretentious and honest it all sounds, and “Another State Of Grace” could hardly be any more at ease with its place in the world.
After listening to opening track “Tonight The Moonlight Let Me Down”, which does evoke some of the most melodic and memorable moments of Thin Lizzy’s back catalogue, especially when that sax kicks in, you know you have hit on something rather special. There is definitely a grittiness and rugged swagger to the sound of this new album that instantly makes it more engaging than its predecessors.
Vocalist Ricky Warwick is still doing the world’s best Phil Lynott impression, of course (and no, he didn’t sound like that when he was fronting The Almighty), but he delivers every line with such conviction and gruff charm that it’s hard not to wonder exactly what anyone could complain about.
In the absence of the real Thin Lizzy, for reasons that should be abundantly clear, this is still as close as we’re going to get.
The even better news is that the majority of these songs are good enough to take the weight.
The build and Celtic drum-fueled thrust of title track “Another State of Grace” is quite exceptional. It’s a hard rocker which sits wonderfully well in a long tradition of songs that old Lizzy fans will be well familiar with. Indeed it’s that classic sound that feels so real here on this collection, like the patina of time has sat on these songs for years. Now that, believe me is a real art.
“Ain’t The End Of The World” is a balls-out rocker, Gorham’s euphoric presence underpinning Warwick’s fiery vocal. A highlight with a great hook, wonderful guitars: it has it all. It’s backed by another great – ‘Underneath the Afterglow’ has a harder edge that will bring a smile to your face, riff driven and rocking it was the last song written for the album with music composed by Gorham and nephew Jesse Siebenberg (son of former Supertramp drummer Bob) with a gem of a lyric by Warwick.
“Underneath The Afterglow” is darker and gnarlier, metallic shades adding muscle to a blissfully restrained melody, while “Soldier In The Ghetto” is lithe power-pop with rippling Hammonds, very classic rock at its core.
“Standing In The Line Of Fire” is another high-energy rocker with a wonderfully screaming solo from Gorham. It really rocks.
“What Will it Take” is yet another pointer that Black Star Riders are reveling in not being considered merely an offshoot of Thin Lizzy but are a real band in their own right. This is a song that should underline that to those late to that conclusion as it dips it’s toes in what some might see as Americana. It’s quite possibly the most enigmatic song here as interestingly it still sports all of the traditional elements like the twin guitar attack, but it’s done via a completely new set of eyes. It also features a shared lead vocal as Warwick teams up with Pearl Aday.
The album close with a pair of winners: “In the Shadow of the War Machine” is another interesting slant on the straight hard rock side, though rock it does, and ending with and the roots rock strut of “Poisoned Heart” – which has a beating heart made to fill stadiums – the Black Star Riders fourth trip down the rock ‘n’ roll highway is easily their best yet.
“Another State Of Grace” was recorded in Los Angeles and produced by Jay Ruston, who mixed ‘The Killer Instinct’ and ‘Heavy Fire’ and it sounds great. The result is in my opinion very much the most consistent and complete Black Star Riders so far.
We might all secretly want them to keep playing tons of Thin Lizzy songs live, but their own material has more than enough charm, class and power of its own.
One of the best Classic Rock albums of the year so far, and a serious contender for the big prize.
01 – Tonight the Moonlight Let Me Down
02 – Another State Of Grace
03 – Ain’t The End Of The World
04 – Underneath the Afterglow
05 – Soldier in the Ghetto
06 – Why Do You Love Your Guns?
07 – Standing in the Line of Fire
08 – What Will It Take?
09 – In the Shadow of the War Machine
10 – Poisoned Heart
Ricky Warwick – Vocals / Guitar
Scott Gorham – Guitars
Christian Martucci – Guitars
Robert Crane – Bass
Chad Szeliga – Drums